It’s easy to place objectives at the forefront of whatever we do. Not to sound like a boomer; but in this day and age, such propensity only gets stronger. There are naturally goals that accompany every task, but the outcome-driven mindset has inevitably seeped into many areas of our time-pressed and efficiency-prioritised lives. And sometimes, it’s hard to see beyond the tactics and strategies we reduce many processes to.
Yet before the movement of mindfulness comes onto the scene, one designer has already carefully considered and mapped it all out. Global design firm Eight Inc’s founder Tim Kobe isn’t a lightweight in the industry. His company has worked with almost 30 Fortune 500 companies, on top of currently being in its 23rd year with Apple, one of Eight Inc’s most notable clients.
Trace back the penchant for design from before finishing design college and Kobe pinpoints drawing from his family background. Growing up with a very practical father and a highly spiritual mother equally fostered his outlook on the roles of both the physical and intangible. As he continues to retell anecdotes and incidences across a three-decade long career, a pattern emerges. Reinforcing a relationship. Differentiating via touchpoints. The irrational loyalty. It all leads back to the human factor.
“You look at the things that drive behaviour, you look at the things that make people care about one another… those things are almost built into our DNA,” Kobe says. “Depending on the interaction with someone, it’s going to determine whether you trust, support or admire them. And so we start to look at it more from a human psychology standpoint: What are the things behind the design that drives the best possible outcomes for people? So that becomes the common thread and a major turning point for us in terms of figuring out what we had been doing for quite a while.”
To delve deeper into the conversation of design, business and more importantly how they intertwine, Kobe has packed the nuggets of his experience and philosophy into his book Return on Experience. You see it expressed in question and answer segments alongside a visual archive of Eight Inc’s work. Here are our favourite takeaways:
Design is much more than a form or material decision
A big shift driving design’s significance in the role of culture and business is the recognition of what it can offer. As seen from the success of companies that put their customers first, they gain a competitive advantage by being perceived as more relevant. Companies that don’t see how crucial this approach is are often left with a customer base that feels disconnected, misunderstood and not valued or appreciated. Regarding design as a purely superficial concept will essentially limit the perception of the value of design.
All design deals with a relationship
Just as people connect with other like-minded individuals, where friends or colleagues bond over common interests, so is understanding the values of the people you want to connect with an important starting point for business decisions. Human outcomes tend to drive successful business outcomes. Many a time, this engagement finds its purpose in serving needs in the best way possible—both functional and aspirational ones. Only then will a genuinely empathic relationship be established.
Design should be holistic
More than just a hot keyword, it is a natural human condition to experience things in context, within a combination of influencing factors. Like reverse engineering of sorts, it involves the four primary realms which can be applied to any category or discipline— the environment of the human activity, the communications, the products or services and the behaviour. These factors that intertwine and are executed well can properly support an intentional outcome.
An idea alone is not innovation
An idea is just the beginning; it’s the execution leading to success that becomes innovation. Design thinking has been mistaken as design, but the former only provides a framework; it is not the solution itself. Again, context is needed for a fully deliverable solution. Designed outcomes are necessary for the application of a creative act via exploring, testing and failing. And of course, a good signal of innovative success is the resulting adoption of it, because it changes people’s lives in a meaningful way and adds value.
Leadership considers two outcomes
Stemming from the ability to see and value the bigger picture, leadership contextualises things through both rational and emotional outcomes. They proffer solutions that create an experience that connects people to their activities and the environment which surrounds them. Taking the late minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew as an example, his dealing with complex issues such as internal and external threats, many of which were not initially apparent, has allowed the nation to become economically viable and remarkably liveable.
Return on Experience is available on Amazon.